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100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes


There are two things in life you will never regret having too much of: shelf space and, if you’re having an outdoor wedding, tent. Seriously, if you’re planning on doing your nuptials out-of-doors, get enough tent to cover, like, an acre and a half – you won’t regret it.

It recently struck me as a good idea to add a little temporary shelf space around 100 Scope Notes headquarters for two reasons…

  1. I’m serving as a judge in the fiction picture book category of the 2012 CYBILS, and will need a place for the nominated books.
  2. Beginning in January, I’m serving on the 2014 Caldecott committee – which will mean more books.

And I needed the shelf space already. Here’s the baseline of where I’m at before #1 and #2 have started:

Yes, I’m doing double rows (a.k.a. The Librarian’s Nightmare Scenario).

While I sorely needed space, it didn’t have to be fancy. The shelves needed to be:
1. Cheap.
2. Easy to assemble/disassemble. This was key in maintaining my delusion of “temporary” – as in, I really want to fool myself into thinking I’m not going to cling to these shelves with everything I have and never take them down.

Here’s the area of my basement that seemed like a good place to build my monstrosity.

Sorry – let me clean up a bit.

So taking all my needs and requirements into consideration, what was the answer to my shelving problem?

Take things back to college.

Aww, yeah. I wanted to kick it old school with the dorm room style cinder blocks and boards shelf. If I went for the “deluxe package” envisioned above, with black lights, tapestry, and futon, I think I would actually turn 19 again. All of a sudden, the jam of 1999 was playing in my head:

Shelving choice decided, it was time to round up a few of these:

Cinder blocks. Not pretty, but they’ll do the job.

Adding to the cheapskatiness of the endevour is the fact that my father is a carpenter and had some wood to donate. We cut plywood to the right size and brought it in.

While I don’t think it’s necessary to use plywood rather than normal wood, I do think this will hold up better in the long run (oh right – this is “temporary” shelving. Uh, it will hold up better for the … short run?). After putting a couple small pieces of wood on the ground to keep the shelves off the floor, we started stacking them up.

We also had a couple skinny blocks, so we used them at the top for an extra tall shelf.

While the look is rugged, I do like the results:

We added a couple screws going through the shelves into the wall on an angle, just to make sure everything stayed in place. Definitely, heh, not to, heh, make it permanent or anything.

I put the shelves to work right away, holding my empty cereal bowls and yogurt cups. Also, books.

But the question remains – when 2013 is over, will I be able to actually part with this “temporary” shelving? Will we ever get back to this…

I’ll keep you posted.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I envy you for having a wall against which to build your temporary (?) shelves. I have run out of walls at my house.

  2. YES! I totally need that. I have the dreaded double shelves of books AND piles of books everywhere. It’s starting to drive me crazy and my husband has been patient about the mess for months. I also need to do a big purge. Do you purge your books too and if so, where do you donate? Can you post on good places to donate books? Thanks!

  3. Congratulations on the Caldecott committee appointment! I imagine that will be fun. And, these cinder block and plywood shelves make me smile. They remind me of my childhood.

  4. I love it. I currently have piles of ARCs all around my bedroom, gradually incurring on the walking space. But hope springs eternal — I’ll probably be moving soon. I bought some “book boxes” to put some in storage. Sigh. What can I say? I have a problem. At one point I had all my books in shelves — then I went to my first ALA Annual. Good luck with taking them down again!

  5. Oh this is funny, and you know it is a slippery slope with bookshelves. First you add one, and then you need another. And another. And another. Next thing you know, you’re panhandling for cinder blocks out on the corner.

  6. The Caldecotts! Big time!

  7. This is brilliant! The never ending need for more shelf space!

  8. Congratulations on both the Cybil and Caldecott appointments! That is very exciting. I really enjoyed your recent SLJ article. Love the bookshelves! Have a wonderful time filling them. :)

  9. Vicki Kouchnerkavich says:

    You are too right about the “joy” of having ample shelf space for books, even in our small public library building that is the #1 issue. Your shelves remind me of college era bookshelves, but whatever affordable & do-able is great. Don’t think the powers that be will go for that in our small library!

  10. Sam Bloom says:

    Looking good! But I think that thing will be full before you get to August of your Caldecott year…

    • So you’re saying I need more shelves?

      • Sam Bloom says:

        I’d imagine so, yes. Of course, you could put books on that very top shelf (depending on how low the ceiling is), so that would tide you over for a while. The other thing you can do is donate a bunch of the books from the Cybils to the Library in preparation for the Caldecott. I’ll tell you what, I envy you your lack of shelving – you’re in for a real treat next year! =)